may i do sub

I have certain attributes that count as privileges when it comes to getting hired as an English teacher in Taiwan. I am white, female, American, straight, conventionally attractive, etc.

None of my quirks show up until after I’ve been working somewhere for a while and I start realizing that every move is lateral and I am teaching to pay for the lifestyle that is my Sisyphean quest to fill the hole that is never filled by teaching and buying new jackets.

Anyway for some people it’s harder. It sucks for people of color who come from English-speaking countries. You hear horror stories about black people being called dirty, or Asian folks being told they aren’t actually American or otherwise. A white face reassures the parents that they are dealing with a “respectable” foreigner, and is a lot less of a headache for the schools.

So I get hired, but the Korean-American woman does not.

So the white Afrikaners who speak heavily accented English as their second language get hired, but the Nigerians and the Singaporeans do not.

This is gross and awful, that goes without saying, but so is not working, so even if we complain, we rarely quit. We still have rent to pay…

For me, I mostly think anyone who speaks English a couple levels better than the students can teach English. The public-school English teachers here aren’t uniquely qualified to teach English: We all have stories about the weird stuff that our kids have been taught as rules at school. For me,  German guy who speaks English pretty well or a Jamaican woman who is just trying to earn some money for the semester she’s here can definitely teach English. Otherwise, it’s just me saying that one accent is objectively better than another, and somehow it’s my accent, and somehow colonialism and globalization are like accidents of history that have magically worked in my favor.

I don’t give a shit. As long as we can communicate in English, you probably speak English well enough to teach Taiwanese kids for an hour a week.

But sometimes, you need a sub, and you post in one of the big Facebook groups, and somebody sends you a message like

may i do sub

and you just have to say no, sorry, dude, you cannot do sub.

i finally did the thing

i finally did the thing

the thing that i have been low-key worried about for more than a decade

because driving here is dangerous and sometimes terrifying, and because when i get scared i get angry, and when i get angry i lose my temper

and when i am riding a scooter or a bicycle, my temper tantrum involves swearing and distributing “the bird”

yesterday i was riding my bike to school. i was actually feeling pretty good because i’d had a good writing session, i had a nice lunch waiting for me, and i’d gone to the bank and got some stuff done. and here i was about to be well early…

the light was green at the end of the alley so i started pumping my legs because i didn’t want to wait for the red. and i was just hitting the intersection–yeehaw!–when this fucker honked at me. the car behind honked at me and was trying to squeeze out of this narrow alley ahead of me.

i was already feeling like man i better hustle to make this light but i also better be prepared to stop in case it turns red cause i don’t want to be in the middle of the intersection when these cars start moving. so i was already on high-alert, already hustling, and this fucker honks at me. 

where was i supposed to go? all i can do is keep pedaling, and now i feel like i am pedaling for my life because a car is chasing me.

there’s no where to go. that’s driving in taiwan. there’s no bicycle or scooter lanes, or if there are, cars park in them. cars double park. caretakers push old people in wheelchairs alongside the double parked cars. grandmothers on 50cc scooters go slower than me on bicycle. pedestrians dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge their way down the roads because the sidewalks are blocked with parked cars and scooters. there’s no where to go when someone honks.

so i flicked her off. i held up the middle finger of my left hand and took the turn wide because this cunt was making a left, too. this dick was trying to mow me down just to make the light.

and then she turned into my school. it’s just right there. i had finally done what i had been afraid i might do: i flicked off a parent from my school.

i was still so scared and mad though that my first thought was “i am willing to get fired for this.” and “if i go down, i’m going down hard.” so i rolled into the lot right behind her and took it slow, glaring at her the whole time.

i imagined the stupid meeting the administrators would organize, where i would sit and sip tea and pretend to be ashamed of myself and recite a statement prepared for me by my boss and have to listen to them talk about me in chinese like i wasn’t there or couldn’t understand, about how foreigners have a different culture and aren’t used to the driving in taiwan and miss rae is oh so sorry and then they’d dismiss me and everyone would leave with very plastic smiles and giggles and lots of nodding like little bows.

i would literally rather be fired.

i rolled to the back of the school where i keep my bike and got my stuff without hesitating. i was going to own this, and if i had to go down, i wasn’t going to apologize for being furious that somebody else was driving dangerously.

but when i came into the courtyard, there was just a little boy was making his lone way to class. i asked him if his mom drove the gray car and he said yes…

when i got to the table where the other foreign teachers were eating lunch, my hands were still shaking.

i waited for her to come in. i waited for her to call, for my manager to call me into the office. but nothing happened.

best case scenario: she was so oblivious that she didn’t notice that i gave her the middle finger and pulled into the school behind her. this wouldn’t surprise me at all because that’s literally why driving here is so dangerous–people are oblivious.

bestest case scenario: she was so embarrassed that she almost ran over a teacher at her son’s school that she doesn’t want to show her face. she went home to think about what she had done and decided she needs to chill when she’s driving, that sitting at a red light is less of a hassle than manslaughter charges.

insofar as she was a member of my school community, of course i did not want to give her the bird. but insofar as she was a rude and dangerous driver who in that instant valued my safety less than the prospect of having to sit through a 75-second red light, fuck her.

highlights from the conversation with my landlord

my landlord is old and withered-looking but he does tai chi and lives in a third-floor walkup. he’s real nice but he talks like an old dude so i only understand about 45% of what he is saying. he doesn’t do that annoying “niiii haaaaaooooo” shit and he never tries talking louder or slower, he just repeats himself like maybe if he says whatever he wants me to understand enough times, then it’ll stir up some dormant memory of chinese i learned in a past life and then i’ll be able to do more than look at my non-chinese-speaking husband if he knows what’s going on

here are the highlights from our conversation this morning, initiated because we want to extend our lease but also there’s a leak in the living room:

we showed him where the water is leaking through the carpet on our ceilings (our place has loads of personality) and he said he’d get someone to come take a look at it

i thought he was saying that we were wasting electricity and i wanted to be like “you are so right” and i was working up my “i’m gonna do some soul-searching” face but it turns out he just wants to get us hooked up with some solar power source of electricity cause that’ll conserve some electricity and be safer for us (than our gas water heater and gas stove)

i learned how to say solar power in chinese

we asked him to change the drape rails cause the little plastic riders are so old they’ve gotten brittle and break off when you touch them. he said he is willing to install and pay for some kind of covering for our big sliding glass doors at the front but he thinks a giant roller shade is the way to go. like he was really selling it because that’s what he has in his apartment–he even took us downstairs to show us his giant, ugly roller shade. i was on the fence when i thought he was talking about horizontal blinds and partly because i didn’t think horizontal blinds came in that size, but no, uh uh, i do not want a 10-foot wide white hospital screen between me and what is actually a nice view when the sun isn’t three feet away from our front windows. i suggested vertical blinds instead; he said he wasn’t sure if they exist but he’d ask the contractor.

if we’re willing, he’ll have the contractor come while we’re on holiday to fix up the roof and install the solar power apparatus

there was a pause and the landlord filled that pause with a pretty lengthy fart and then the pause was extended because jeremy and i couldn’t laugh, couldn’t look at each other, couldn’t talk

he thought the abstract painting i bought at the thrift store for like NT$250 was a picasso. like he went from keeping back, standing in the doorway of the master bedroom to like almost crawling up on the bed. he asked if he we had money to buy a picasso. i am not sure if he really understood that it was a cheap print because he got very animated.

some people in the neighborhood were talking about us because %$#&@&t^#g^%#, but he told them it was just our culture. anyway he knows it’s very difficult to carry my bike up five flights of stairs. i didn’t ask him to go into more detail because i like living here and i don’t want to worry about what the neighbors i never talk to might be saying about us.

(his wife told me i could leave my bike in the weird basementy area of our apartment…okay first of all there are two flights of stairs that go down but there’s no basement, just a bunch of a trash in a cave under the first floor landing. she told me i could keep my bike on the stairs and i did once but i was like low-key worried about it not being there when i woke up which is irrational because this is taiwan, and then when i went downstairs it was there but the whole cave area is dark and dirty and full of trash and you can tell that IT definitely hangs out there on like tuesdays when there’s nothing left to watch on netflix so fuck that, i will continue to carry my bike down and back up to the fifth floor every day)

he wants us to be comfortable in our place. he’ll be in touch when he lines up a contractor.


WHAT ARE THE NEIGHBORS SAYING ABOUT US?!

we don’t even do anything most of the time, just go to work and go home, sometimes i go for a walk in the mornings and sometimes we bring home takeout. we’ve had two christmas parties at christmas time. we take out the trash every saturday. what could they possibly have to say about us?!

IF YOU WATCH EVERYTHING I DO YOU ARE A FAN

being frugal in zhongli or taiwan

except for riding a bike to work, i do zero of the following things, and my bike cost NT$8000 because it’s cute. but sometimes i think i could be frugal.

to my mind, the cool thing about being frugal is that it generally turns out being good for the earth and healthy, too. philosophically, i am down with frugal 100%…but then in reality…i end up spending more than i want to on beer and new restaurants, clothes and books, and whatever else catches my eye. still, overall, we’ve saved more here than we could back home, and we have more dispensable income…we’re working on it. hoping we’ll figure it out before the apocalypse. if not, hey…

ride a bike to work, or walk
a nice new scooter might cost you as much as NT$90,000. a lemon might be less than NT$10,000. because the cost of repairing and maintaining a scooter here is much less than repairing and maintaining a car back home, you might never spend that NT$80,000 difference in repairs. however, the mornings when you’re running late and that little asshole won’t start, you’ll wish you had a reliable set of wheels. if it’s too far to walk to work, consider getting a bicycle, especially a secondhand one. you won’t even have to pay the measly NT$150 a week it costs for gas. you might also consider renting a ubike, but even that NT$20-NT$40 a session might start to add up. bonus: bicycling is healthier, and if you enjoy it enough, it’s a good way to get out and explore on the weekends, too. make some cycling buddies!

drink at family mart aka “club FM”
i’m not saying don’t drink cause that’s crazy talk, but drinking is one thing that’s just about as expensive or even more expensive in taiwan than it is back home. but it’s totally permissible to sit in front of a 7-11 with your 7-11 beers and cigarettes and hang out with your buds. you can even get a bag of beers and go drink in the park, which is illegal back in the u.s.! just please don’t be assholes about it: don’t get rowdy, don’t start peeing everywhere that isn’t the bowl of the toilet/urinal, don’t be puking or shoplifting or scaring children. and when you see the old people doing their laps, that means the sun’s about to come up and it’s time for you to go home.

make your coffee at home
okay no lie this one always feels like too much work to me since you can get coffee at 7-11 for like one u.s. dollar. but, hey, you can get a bag of grinds for a couple of bucks and make loads of coffee yourself, so…it is technically cheaper. however, i do think the convenience-store coffee, if you don’t hate it, is a good financial compromise between making your own and going to starbucks or some place where they cold-brew coffee in a chemistry set and charge NT$240 for it. bonus: even 7-11 will give you a small discount if you get your coffee in your travel mug instead of a paper cup. bonus bonus: also sometimes the coffee at 7-11 and Family Mart is “buy one, get one 50% off”…and they’ll tell you that and be like, do you wanna “ji yi bei”? and if you say yes, they’ll charge you for that coffee and the next one, but then they’ll give you a receipt with a special stamp on it or a little slip of paper, and as long as you bring it back to that exact same location and get the exact same drink, you get your coffee and you saved that money. Your future self will thank you!

no pets
this one makes me sad but it’s just a fact of life. even getting set up with a fish bowl or taking in an about-to-be-homeless hamster costs money. you got the big initial splurge, then the regular care costs, then you’re gonna wanna upgrade… then like one of the hamsters got sick and i took it to the vet and that cost NT$500 and then it died the next day, anyway. i love having pets, but if your mind is on your money, then you gotta know that they can be big expenses.

eat local
i don’t mean the same thing as back home when it means get all your meat and produce from the farmers market; i mean enjoy yourself some chinese food as often as possible. once you start getting into cheese and guacamole and all that, prices start rising, even if you’re cooking at home. and there are more benefits than the financial: the local food in taiwan is always amazing, but you know you’ve had some funky salads or pizzas you wish you could take back. and if you want to branch out, vietnamese places here have really good and cheap food, too. if you can learn to cook some chinese food at home, and shop at the markets instead of the grocery stores, you can save even more!

learn some chinese
if you know how to speak and even read some chinese, you can order loads more from local restaurants

wire money home as infrequently as possible
otherwise you get those transfer fees here, the bank fees there…they really add up!

rent an older place
what i mean is don’t rent one of the apartments in the nice, new buildings. first of all, you’ll end up paying extra in guard fees, parking fees, etc. then if you’re in a fancy neighborhood, which in zhongli is the sogo neighborhood, that’ll cost ya extra, too. we found a really old place down near the xinmin night market. it’s a five-floor walkup, so that might be an issue for some people, but for us it’s okay. we have very big rooms, and old hardwood floor, and more storage space than we need, all for NT$11,000 a month. and to hear our taiwanese friends tell it, we could have gotten it for even cheaper if we had bargained.

turn off your a.c.
i mean, i don’t do this at all because i am a large baby and i can’t stand the heat or hearing J complain about the heat, so when summer comes, it’s running all the time. but i’ve heard legends of people who get by with fans, or only use their a.c. at night, and they pay a ton less in electricity bills than we do.

get an e-book reader
if you’re a voracious reader, and i am, and you have sunk a lot of money into books that you had to toss when you had to pare your life down to what could fit into two suitcases, then devices like my kindle and my nook are dreamy. i get to keep whatever i buy! you can also legally download many versions of the literary classics because they’re old, or get them for real cheap on amazon. i still end up paying full price for some books, but i’ve gotten so many for free or cheap that i can’t be mad. and think of all the luggage space (and fees!) you save when you can pack 200 books in a device the size of a slim notebook. also, i think you can set up a local library account before you move out here (or when you’re back on holiday) and then you have access to gazillions of books for free. in the meantime, harvest time usually has some books available to borrow, or you can try to hit me up for some (zhongli only, and only if i know your face).

you don’t need a costco membership
if you aren’t making western food and you’re trying to save money, there isn’t much you need to buy at costco, and definitely not anything you can’t ask someone to pick up for you next time they go, like a NT$900 box of australian red wine.

steal clothes from your friends
like not really, but when people leave, and they can only pack what they’re really attached to, offer to be the receptacle for whatever they aren’t taking with them. and whatever you don’t want, take to the thrift store, and while you’re there, see what else they’ve got for you. otherwise, being heavier or bigger than most people here will save you money just because you won’t be able to find clothes that fit. until you find out how to order things online…

get that unlimited internet
i know a guy here who was paying NT$800 a month for unlimited internet for his phone, and then used it as a hotspot to get online at home. for everything short of downloading torrents, i don’t see why this wouldn’t work.

be picky
not everyone is gonna be on the same page about the same thing. if you think that eating out and drinking are places you could cut costs, but your friends are saving money on buying books and clothes so they can pig out on saturday nights, you might get distressed. but you can compromise by showing up just for a beer, or showing up just to say hi, or pregaming at home and meeting up with everyone later at the bar, or just, i don’t know, finding new friends. you aren’t gonna be talking to but three of these people a year after you move, and ten to one it’s not even the three people you think it is, so don’t stress about fitting their birthdays into your budget.

get a hobby
if you get into something like drinking old-people tea, playing guitar, painting, writing, learning chinese, becoming a film buff, etc., you have stuff to do on the weekends besides get drunk and overeat. invest some of that extra free time in yourself, and enjoy a skill or knowledge base that will bring you many happy returns.

what else is there?

what do you do to be frugal in taiwan?

adjusting to life in taiwan

you take off your shoes before you go in the house? now that’s just smart.

you eat food with two sticks instead of a fork and knife? lemme try that!

you put this fish tank here because it’ll attract money to your business? that’s cool. i like fish! shoot, i like money, too!

you take your tea with a little liquor? how cheeky! but i’ll give it a shot.

A post shared by Kevin🇨🇦 (@kevinkjchow) on

you let the old people start eating first before you take any food? that’s mighty decent of you.

you give kids red envelopes of money during the lunar new year? that’s interesting. tell me more!

you want me to come over your house and grill some skewers and take pictures of each other with pomelo rinds on our heads? sign me up, ya crazy animal!

A post shared by 耶耶 (@wu_ya__) on

you can’t whistle at night cause it will attract ghosts? i guess that’s like how we don’t open umbrellas in the house back home.

you wanna rent a room, get drunk, and sing avril lavigne songs at each other? did you just read my mind?!

you don’t let kids drink cold water, but you hand them bottle rockets? hey, they’re your kids.

you hire pole dancers and strippers to perform on the street for big funerals and major holidays? let me get my camera.

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you hired a cleaning service to clean this place before we moved in, and they didn’t sweep the cat hair out from under the sofa because you can’t see under the sofa? you paid money for someone to half-clean this house?! did you just pay them half?!

you just park wherever? but this is double-parking and you’re blocking traffic behind- omg watch out for that guy doing a u-turn in the middle of- jesus h. christ!

would it not be simpler if every driver on the damn island starting turning BEHIND the people in the right lane instead of speeding up and cutting them off?! maybe there needs to be like a government campaign or something…

if.you.needed.to.turn.left.why.were.you.on.the.far.right.why.why.answer.me.why.

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER CUTS IN LINE?! I DON’T CARE HOW OLD YOU ARE OR HOW BUSY YOU THINK YOU ARE RELATIVE TO THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO WERE HERE FIRST! YOU GO RIGHT TO HELL!

it’s a pasta and ramen kind of day

i am sitting here slurping on a bowl of creamy tom yum instant noodles that i made with too much water. i don’t normally eat instant noodles or food from 7-11, but tonight i did both because today sucked and i want it to choke it dead with carbohydrates.

i woke up early and went for a walk and that seemed like a promising beginning, but while i was walking i got stuck behind an old man slowly pedaling down the walking/bike path ahead of me. every few feet, he would hork a loogie to the right and then let sail a snot rocket to the left. one or two expectorations from an old dude in the morning is still fucking gross but within the realm of shit that happens, but this dude was a bicycling biohazard. i kept back and tried to avoid seeing whatever the fuck he was leaving in a trail behind him. he stopped his bicycle at the intersection and took a long drag of his cigarette and i realized he was killing himself and mindlessly spreading contagions like he’d decided the rest of us have nothing to live for. thanks, old dude.

that was fine.

i had trouble getting focused but i nailed out the last couple paragraphs of a short story that i started working on like two weeks ago and at least i have a rough draft now. i thought that would be enough joy to get me through the day, knowing i’ve finished yet another story, but no:

i went to this smoothie place at like i swear to god 12:15, it was not that late. maybe 12:20. there are a couple of tables, but just one couple at one table and that’s it. i walk in an order a smoothie and a wrap. to be clear, this is food that has to be assembled, not made, and this is basically the only food available at this place: coffee, smoothies, and three kinds of sandwiches.

i step back and look at my watch. as long as i am out of here by 12:40, i will definitely have time to bike to work. but i am certain that i will be out of there before 12:40 because that would be ridiculous. these people put lunch meat and slices of lettuce on bread for a living, they are professionals. at 12:35, the chick walks out from behind the counter and i jump up, ready to grab my stuff, and OMG SHE IS JUST BRINGING TWO FUCKING SMOOTHIES TO THESE OTHER PEOPLE. like i watched this chick cut up some strawberries, wash them all, rehome them in some tupperware, wash the plastic box they came in…and none of that was for me. i have been there twenty minutes, these people even longer. and the manager was over there interviewing a prospective employee at 12:30 AS YOU DO IN A RESTAURANT…i took a deep breath because obviously now that these smoothies are out of the way, these ridiculous fucking smoothies with fruit arranged on top like a goddamn carmen-miranda headpiece, this chick will be able to roll up some lunch meat in a tortilla and send me on my way. so i wait til 12:40 and i can’t really wait any longer, it’s gonna take me 15 minutes to get to work, and i peek over the counter AND THIS BITCH IS MAKING WAFFLES AND GRILLING CHICKEN.

i did not order waffles or chicken.

i told her i had to go, but like right now, sorry and thanks, tee-hee, and she shuffles the shuffle of the overworked and underpaid and pulls out a tupperware container with some meat in it and starts to put the beef on the grill like i have twenty more minutes to waste on her making bad life choices. finally the manager was done and also tuned in to what was happening and she saw a solution, how about i just take the chicken if i’m in such a rush?

if i had fucking wanted chicken…but fine, it’s actually too late for me to get food anywhere else at this point anyway. so there’s like US$7 which is actually pretty pricey for lunch in zhongli and like a solid 40 minutes of my life wasted getting somebody else’s overpriced lunch.

and then on the way to work, literally just riding my bicycle down the side of the road, a car passed me. i noticed she had her right turn signal on pretty much right when she turned. i slammed both my brakes, and when you do that on a bicycle, you stop dead, unless you slide for a second on your not-moving wheels, which is what i did. i was furious–i hadn’t been going slow at all and it wouldn’t have taken but a second for her to turn behind me instead of cut me off. i almost fell over the handlebars, and then the person behind me honked their horn. i was apoplectic and residually afraid for me life, so i screamed at that guy and waved my arms, “don’t fucking honk at me! it was that car!” and then that car was still there so i did what any professional elementary school teacher would do in public when she’s lost her fucking mind and i tore off down that road with the intention of i don’t know, ringing my bicycle bell at her a bunch of times and flipping her the bird.

lo and fucking behold, she’d stopped like just right there because some other jackass was doing a surprise u-turn. so she’d almost caused an accident because she had to make that right turn so fucking fast, and here she is waiting because it’s zhongli and nobody can drive and everyone double parks and the roads suck SO WHAT IS THE POINT. i got alongside her, i waved my right arm around and shouted, “you’re a real dick, you know that?” because that was what was in my heart of hearts at that moment. and then because the other car was still not pointed in the right direction i drifted past them both and then had to stop to make a left to get back on the road i was actually supposed to be on so i could go to work, since i was running late. she had to pass behind me, and when she did, i gave her the stinkiest of stink eyes, and willed the stench to stay with her the rest of the day.

of course by the time i got to school i felt bad for losing my cool–what if that had been a parent driving the car? awkward. but i also felt a teensy bit justified since she’d made me almost shit my pants.

i am afraid of ending up on youtube. i actually feel sorry for people some people who lose their shit and end up on youtube because sometimes unless they are racist or transphobic or what, i feel like i get it. there but for the grace go i…

and then i had to teach, within like an hour of me wanting to see some lady bounce her own head off her steering wheel. but that’s fine, i’m fine with the students. we made little posters and read a story about a pig named slim and it was fine. the “poo-poo” all over the floor of the boys’ bathroom was actually mud and the “blood” was actually blood, but it was just a nosebleed. all in all it was fine.

then i spent thirty minutes of my prep time looking for the shitfucking projector i was meant to use, and then thirty minutes of a forty-minute class looking for damn files on the usb because i knew that as soon as class was over, any other teacher there was going to show me where the files were and say something passive-aggressive about my being an idiot. only nobody could find the files after class and then we found the last person who had used the usb labelled “reading adventures” and found out that satan had compelled her to remove the “reading adventures” files from that usb and put whatever the hell she wanted on it.

THAT’S OKAY TEEHEE TEEHEE

i went to the dentist after work to try and find my health insurance card and the receptionist asked me about a dozen questions and told me to wait a minute and i kept explaining to her that i only wanted to know if i’d forgotten my health card and she kept saying it would take a minute to find out…then she finally came from the back with a file with my name on it and said you just want to know to know if we have your health card? and i said yes, and she said of course we don’t, if we did, we would call you. and since that wasn’t the dumbest thing that happened today i just accepted it.

and then the vietnamese place was closed and i could have gone to the night market but people, and i thought about going to madotz for hot pot but people, so i got pasta carbonara at 7-11 and the lady said “nihao” to me and didn’t grab anything out of my hands so that was pretty much the best part of my day so far, except for actually finishing the first draft of that story.

but i don’t have my health card so i can’t go to the doctor (without paying US$15 instead of US$3 for a doctor’s visit) so this cold is just gonna hang out here. unlike the old man, i will not force anything out of my body, i will just sit here with leaks sprouting in my eyes and nose.

at least i am not in texas. nor do i have children. and there’s still one more episode of game of thrones and a new episode of insecure.

and loads more ramen.

songs for driving in taiwan

Thank you for not killing me
You could have killed me so easily!
Your heart is true
You’re a good driver in Taiwan!

  • to the tune of auld lang syne

i almost died
i almost died
i almost died just now
just now i almost died just now
just now i almost died

  • to the tune of for he’s a jolly good fellow

you’re a terrible driver
you’re a terrible driver
you’re a terrible driver
which nobody can deny!

turn signals are fun
i know that you have them
so why don’t you use them
yeah turn signals

effin’ son of a gun
you’re going to kill me
why do you hate me
use turn signals

people should be seen and not heard and not seen much

my ideal coffee shop has single-person booths, like cubicles, and the baristas bring you your drink and no one is allowed to talk to each other or on their cellphones or listen to music without headphones and no children are allowed and no conversation of any kind

my ideal coffee shop is a library with a really strict librarian but also you are allowed to drink coffee

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things I hate at the coffee shop:

    • people sitting in my direct line of vision even though I sit in the corner away from the window
    • people who take my seat at the starbucks I usually go to (My seat is the one in the corner by the door because there’s only once chance for someone to sit next to me and nobody likes the lounge chairs directly in front of me so usually there isn’t anyone sitting between me and the window and when the door opens, there’s a warm breeze mixed in with the AC.)
    • when there are more than two or three people in line because the baristas here are slow and odds are one of those people is going to order six different drinks and get confused halfway through ordering them so that one of the other baristas who could be making drinks has to come over and do an interpretive dance explaining the difference between iced and hot drinks
    • people who sit next to me when there are other seats available not next to me

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    • people who peer into the windows like they are looking for someone but actually they are just looking at their reflection
    • people who stand near me when I am sitting because I can only think about their dirty buttholes or smelly crotches being near my food
    • people who fuck with their hair more seems necessary this is a coffee shop you are not beyonce this is not a music video this is my life
    • people who squirm in my peripheral vision or in front of me and even across the way because it disturbs my whole aura
    • people who sit down in the bench seat like they are trying to catch something fast-moving with their butt because it makes me bounce on the cushion
    • skinny people who think they are skinnier than they are and try to squeeze into places where they don’t fit you are skinny not elastic
    • single customers who take up two tables when there are people looking for tables
    • people who sit four or five to a two-top table (and the two-top is really a one-top)
    • people who talk on their cellphones or watch or listen to anything without headphones on
    • students who look like they are meant to be studying but keeping replying to messages on their phone and giggling and making breathing noises

    • people who come to cafes for meetings, especially sales pitches–i have watched people open up a giant bag and start pouring liquids into various vials and expound upon the cleaning power of their products in the middle of an otherwise quiet coffee shop
    • anyone who comes into a quiet coffee shop making any kind of noise
    • families with children that do an elaborate but bad job of both trying to get their kids seated and arranged and stand in line at the same time
    • people who want a private consultation before they commit to ordering bread and coffee
    • people who come to Starbucks to buy gifts, not coffee, and want to confer with the barista like they need the details on an important investment
    • people who cut in line and the stupid surprised face they make when someone points it out to them like they thought three other people were just hanging out near the cash register because the wifi is better there, or something
    • people who eat their sandwiches with a fork and a knife
    • people who slurp their coffee
    • people who grab for their coffee too frequently (counts as squirming)
    • people who sit next to me instead of the other person when there are two empty seats between us
    • slow baristas
    • the person who shows up just as the rush is over so you had to wait ten minutes for an americano but she gets her frappucino in like 3 seconds and breezes out like no big deal
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    • the starbucks manager who always acts like my ordering a drink is a hurdle to her getting her work done
    • when one barista is making the drinks and two baristas are slapping each other with towels while five customers are waiting for their coffee
    • the delivery guy who comes and flirts really loudly with the baristas and makes them shriek and squeal really loudly
    • the people who let the door slam at the Starbucks by the train station
    • the stupid tiny fucking tables at the cama coffee behind sogo
    • the fact that my favorite Louisa never opened until 9:30 a.m. and now it’s perma-closed
    • whatever the fuck this traditional italian folk music remixed with a techno beat is what
    • the entourage accompanying the one person who is actually ordering a drink, and the fact that all six of them will notice that the one guy is blocking the exit except the guy who is actually blocking the exit
    • people who take pictures of their starbucks order
    • people who take multiple selfies at starbucks
    • people who think starbucks is fancy (overpriced, yes, but its not expensive enough to keep broke college students and people with kids out)

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  • when the barista tries to fix a drink she messed up instead of remaking it because I paid US$5 for this vanilla iced cold-brew coffee and i struggle not to feel stupid about that decision but when you fuck it up and just put some more sugary syrup in it and remind me to stir it myself it’s like a bad-idea one-night stand that doesn’t even redeem itself with decent sex
  • people who bring in their US$2 breakfast to enjoy the air-conditioned Starbucks atmosphere that I paid like US$8 to be able to sit in why didn’t the rest of us think of that you’re so smart ya dickhead
  • people who can’t fucking slide a chair or table over without making a big production like they are remodeling their living space and having an enraptured audience gives them inspiration to go on
  • people who line up too close to me i will make it awkward by flipping my hair or feigning a tic that looks like the electric slide
  • strangers who want to talk about anything besides what i want to drink

things I love

  • watching people try to squeeze through the closing gap in the electric doors because they didn’t know you have to press the button
  • watching people who try to cut in line like they are princess frappuccino get told to line behind those of us who are obviously waiting
  • watching the shitty Starbucks manager tell people who rocked up with breakfast shop sandwiches that cost like US$1 that they have to order a US$5 coffee or leave and watching them leave
  • the hot guys who used to run my favorite louisa’s and sometimes were still buttoning their collared shirts when i came in as they were opening

Morning at the museum

Me and Monet at the Toledo Museum of Art
Me and Monet at the Toledo Museum of Art

I am planning on going to the Musee d’Orsay 30th anniversary exhibit at the National Palace Museum in Taipei and I am so excited and also totally dreading it.

On the one hand I took an AP Art History class in 1998 and since then I have read exactly two full books about the Belle Epoque so I am super pumped that some of these invaluable works that I have quite possibly heard of have basically come to my door. Also I am an ignorant girlchild when it comes to art so I am like “yay Impressionists” because their shit is pretty. All those sunrises and sunsets are like glasses of wine for your eyes.

And I don’t know exactly why but I have always kind of been a Francophile, but I am the kind of nerd who knows the word Francophile and that Guy de Maupassant ate lunch under the Eiffel Tower so he wouldn’t have to look at it, but I didn’t know that Les Mis wasn’t about the French Revolution until I googled it just now.

On the other hand, everyone else in northern Taiwan knows that it’s very important to see these very important paintings so they are all going there and bringing their whole goddamn families and letting their kids go feral while the adults take turns walking right the fuck in front of each other as they are trying to Appreciate the Art.

review of musee d'orsay exhibit 1

musee d'orsay exhibit taipei 2

review musee d'orsay exhibit in taipei 3

Yes I intentionally looked for the 1-star to 3-star reviews on Facebook because those are my people. I don’t want you guys who try to “make the best of things” lying to me about what a shit time I’m gonna have. But this is bad. When Taiwanese visitors are like “It’s too noisy” and straight up “Children under 12 should not be permitted,” then I feel like I am about to make a very bad decision for someone who will wait four hours for her husband to get home from work rather than leave to get herself banh mi.

I have to strategize:

  • I am going alone because unless some of my friends are in the closet about their love of late-nineteenth-century painters, none of them are, and I am not getting chased around the museum by someone who only came to Taipei because I promised you we would go to H&M after.
  • I am leaving Zhongli on a bus at like 6:30 in the morning, and I’m not waiting for you to take your morning shit because you thought you could be up and ready to go in 15 minutes but your colon is not cooperating.
  • I am gonna be at that ticket window when it opens at 8:20 and I hope you and your kids are still looking for the one shoe that you need to leave the house so I can get a couple rooms ahead of you before you show up.
  • I am not allowed to bring shit in with me, fine, but I am definitely renting a headset so I can tune you out. I will bring a notebook with me to record my impressions of the impressionists lol but I will look your child in the eye and make a stabbing motion with my pen if he bounces into my thighs more than once. I am literally paid not to lose my shit around kids for 30 hours a week, but I don’t work weekends.
  • I may not shower because I am not afraid to use body odor if it will get me closer to to The Gleaners.

I have also considered what kind of clothing I could wear—something with inflatable spikes? something made of actual balloons?—that would be most effective in keeping people from bumping into me like they did not see 170 pounds of me with big hair and giant tits staring at a painting and exuding a misanthropic aura. It is 2017 do we not have contact alarms for my person? Something that beeps right before you back into me would be great. I am probably just going to wear my Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum t-shirt that nobody ever wants to talk about and pray for the all the ungiven fucks that Offred was blessed with at the end of season 1.

Wish me luck! Any suggestions for a worthwhile solo lunch in Taipei would be welcome, otherwise I am definitely getting banh mi at my spot in Zhongli, since I’m already out.

Best Pizza in Zhongli Taiwan

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I wanted to list a few places to get pizza in Zhongli like I did for salads in Zhongli, but Wild Boar is it, hands down. Pizza Hut and Domino’s have jumped the shark and now it’s bread, cheese, and a sack of frozen imitation seafood bits that would have been better off as an ice pack. Sometimes they put cocktail wienies in the crust but that doesn’t make it better.

I mean at some point it’s not actually pizza anymore and I can’t say where that line is but I think it’s this side of topping it with peas and corn.

And most other places that have “pizza” on the menu really just serve ketchup on a slab of chalky white cardboard covered with cheese made of used birthday candles.

We went to the Pizza Factory tonight because it’s new. We had to book a table in advance because it’s so popular, but it was about on par with the meal you get at Easy Life Pizza&Cafe. The crust was a little better than I expected given the sweet corn chowder and the iceberg-lettuce salad, but it would have been a lot better if it were cooked all the way.

I feel bad being honest, though, because the manager talked to us, because we tried to go on Saturday and they didn’t have any tables, and some foreigners tried to go on Sunday and they didn’t have any tables, and then some foreigners started waving their arms and saying that the were discriminating against foreigners. So the manager apologized to me as a representative of the contingent of Zhongli foreigners past and present, I GUESS, and gave me a 90%-on coupon. He went on the record saying he really liked foreigners and it was just that some foreigners didn’t understand that there’s a 90-minute time allowance for each table and so they don’t seat people if there’s less than 90 minutes left for them to eat. It’s not our logic, but it’s logical, so okay then.

Anyway I don’t care because Wild Boar has the best pizza in Zhongli. They also have great calzones that they call “half-moon pizzas” and some cheesy bread that they call “papadams”. And it’s tiny so your chances of having kids belting around the place is reduced because even if someone makes the poor choice to bring them, there isn’t enough room for them to really pick up speed.

They also have dessert pizzas but I’m usually out of room myself by the end of the meal.

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J just came home and I remembered that he also gets pizza from the pizza truck parked near the Wenhua Elementary school on Wednesday nights and it is awesome. He usually gets the margherita pizza because it’s the cheapest. There is not anything better than mid-week surprise pizza right before bed except not eating it and waking up feeling like you are finally a grownup. A grownup who can have pizza eggs for breakfast on a weekday.